As published in Mailsport today
By Haresh Deol
KUALA LUMPUR — FA of Malaysia (FAM) will write to Fifa for a third time to request the World Cup qualifier against Palestine in Hebron on Nov 12 be played at a neutral venue.
This follows recent reports of shootings between security forces and Palestinians recently.
Fifa rejected FAM’s two earlier appeals, insisting the match will proceed at Dura Stadium.
Saudi Arabia, who meet Palestine in another World Cup qualifier on Thursday, raised concerns of playing in the West Bank in their letter to Fifa on Friday.
The teams were scheduled to play in Ramallah on Oct 13 but that was postponed after the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) invoked a case of force majeure preventing their team from travelling to the Palestinian territories.
”We are aware of the situation and will write to Fifa (today) to express our concerns. We have written to them before but that will not stop us from doing so again,” said FAM general secretary Datuk Hamidin Amin.
FAM are in contact with Wisma Putra over the situation, hoping a travel advisory from the Foreign Ministry would further strengthen their request to play Palestine in a neutral venue.
It is learnt the Foreign and Sports Ministries have held discussions over the matter.
An insider said: “The players and coaching staff are concerned. We have a Whatsapp group and the players have been sending links of reports about the latest shooting incidents in Hebron and pictures of dead bodies.
“They hope Fifa would reconsider and order the match to be played at a neutral venue.”
The Asian Football Confederation have also been providing Fifa with updates of the situation.
”But Fifa have their own assessment mechanism on safety and security matters through their security department. AFC’s reports are based on past experiences of hosting matches there. No official opinion was normally sought,” an AFC insider said.
SAFF, in their Oct 30 letter, said they remain deeply concern the (Fifa) bureau (for World Cup qualifiers) have not fully provided with all material evidence and information in coming to the decision to play in Palestine and/or taken full account of the prevailing circumstances of local instability and uncertain security in the West Bank occupied by Palestinian territories.
The federation said “local tension between opposing groups and factions have severely escalated”.
“SAFF owe a fiduciary duty to the Saudi Arabia team and their accompanying delegation to ensure security and safety when participating in international fixtures and likewise owe similar obligations to supporters of the team who may attend matches,” read the letter signed by SAFF general secretary Ahmed Alkhamis.
Fifa, responding to queries made by Mailsport yesterday, said the Saudi Arabia-Palestine match would go on as scheduled on Thursday.
“Concerning the Palestine-Malaysia match, we can confirm it is scheduled on Nov 12 in Hebron,” the Fifa spokesperson said.
On Sunday, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian at the Beit Einun village near Hebron, the latest killing in several weeks of violence as tensions between Israel and Palestine rise.
Hebron is home to a shrine known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque. The city has 200,000 Palestinian residents.